During war, countries fighting for survival are often at the height of innovation, applying their knowledge in a variety of different ways. Biologists, physicists, and chemists are all rushing to create new products for use at home and abroad. Many people often overlook the artists and designers who are also set in motion, creating propoganda and war posters to distribute to the masses.
War propaganda posters are designed to incite patriotism, a sense of pride and a conviction to winning the war at home. During wartime, supplies are often rationed and civilians face changes in living conditions, and war propaganda posters are designed to help combat this.
Below are some war posters from various wars that bring to light some strong modern design principles.
If you liked these examples of poster design, check out these other posts:
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- Best Movie Posters: Unofficial Typography Posters for Famous Films
- Movie Poster Design Inspiration: Creative Movie Posters
- Minimalist Movie Posters with Hidden Symbolism
Hopefully you find these war posters insightful!
United States War Posters
It only seemed appropriate to start the article with the classic poster of Uncle Sam pointing straight at the viewer to recruit for the US army. This poster is simple and bold. The white poster is interrupted by strong dark lines with a determined Uncle Sam saying he wants YOU.
This next poster also uses bold lines, but employs more color contrast. The dark blue placed on the bright yellow draws a lot of attention to the object of interest, smoke.
This wartime poster is practically a cartoon. The nose is a bit big, the eyes are a bit small, and the eyebrows are very expressive making the poster a caricature of an American businessman.
Somewhat different from the rest, this poster uses softer lines to liken the patriots of the Revolutionary War to infantrymen of World War II. Using lines that are less bold blur the images together, symbolizing the unity of the past and present.
A classic war time poster is Rosie the Riveter. Just as she symbolizes the boldness of women during the war, the poster is also quite bold with the use of saturated primary colors as well as the presence of clear shape and form.
Russia War Posters
This poster is actually from the Russian Revolution. It was meant to symbolize change, which is visually represented here as the flat, graphic, red figures demolishing the softly sketched beige past. The hard angles and dynamic lines indicate the oncoming of the industrialized nation Russia was hoping to be.
A common thread between many Russian posters is showing the plight of soldiers. There’s a wispy quality to the poster such that the soldiers appear to be fighting through horrid conditions.
This poster is much akin to the American poster above likening current troops to the troops of the past. The less defined features above make the figures from the past appear more like shadows since they are shadows of the past.
This last poster has a sort of luminance that highlights the glory of the Russian people rather than the turmoil of the infantry. This effect is accomplished through the use of warm colors and the explosive quality of the star in the center.
France War Posters
Due to invasion, France had little time to create propaganda and most of it was destroyed. This is a rare one, demonstrating France’s triumph over Nazi Germany. This feeling of certain victory appealed to those wanting to be on the winning side.
BRITAIN WAR POSTERS
This poster is rather rigid but utilizes slightly softer color palettes. The design is linear with the form of a Hellenic figure rising above. However, the colors are different shades of blue, which is calming and gives the poster a feel of calm determination.
This poster follows the trend of the Uncle Sam above with Union Jack communicating directly with the viewer. This poster plays on a similar shading style where the tan of the background matches the tan soldiers uniforms, but is then interrupted by the bold colored proud Union Jack.
This poster has a modern quality to it, which explains why it is still a widely circulated image today. The typography is the centerpiece – it’s simple clean and bold. It also has an austere quality that gives it a mysterious power. With the crown at the top and the big bold letters you feel as though it is a royal decree being sent to you from high.
This poster celebrates diversity in the English army. It uses the tan uniforms to bring everyone together under the waving British flag. This feeling of unity in location and color brings the picture together.
Germany War Posters
This German poster translates to “As we fight, you have to work for the victory.” connecting the civilian to the German troops. There is a thick dirty background, which matches the gritty appearance of the soldier. Altogether this gives the viewer the feeling of being in the trenches.
In contrast, rather than appearing gritty, this picture glorifies Hitler and the German people with the feeling of assured victory. This picture emphasizes their leader, putting him dead center. Amongst the sea of beige, the Nazi flag pops as the only bright color in the poster.
Here there’s a giant figure that represents the German people with a title above saying “We Workers Are Awaken!”. This poster gives the feeling of rising above with a gritty industrially feel, representing the work that will go into building a powerful country.
Japan War Posters
This poster vilifies the American and British armies showing them with a bayonet attacking the viewer. In this way the Japanese spread fear and could unite the country against a common enemy.
This poster is a simple and elegant portrait of the Japanese emperor. His medals and prim appearance make him appear as a man of honor, which is important in Japanese culture.
Samurai are still a powerful symbol in Japan, and the feeling of glory and certain victory is important in this link to Japan’s past. It is the bright and bold colors that symbolically overpower this image just as they overpower the American navy.
Italy War Posters
This poster depicts people laughing at their fellow soldier. With a bold title of “Fratricide,” it preaches respect for those fighting. Notice “Fratricidio” is written in red, the color of blood.
This poster paints Churchill and Roosevelt as ugly and menacing goons. The background is dark with an obscured pirate flag in the back, highlighting the men’s faces, allegiances, and weapons.
Vietnam War Posters
This poster follows the art of the 60s and tries to connect to people in a soulful way. By showing only words and faces, it feels as though the voices of the people are united and dominate the thought space that the art occupies.
This poster has an American hat above a skull. In addition the borders of the poster are haggard which makes creates a sense of distaste for the picture and consequently the flag. Here we are unsettled by the United States symbol, rather than inspired to allegiance.
Propoganda comes full circle to the first poster in this article. Here Uncle Sam demonstrates his desire to stop the fighting. Rather than pointing at you and asking you to become a part of the fight, Uncle Sam is asking for you to pull him out of the war that is damaging him badly. It draws upon previous the previous theme.